Friday, November 02, 2007

Deals of the Week: "King of Pain" Edition

Admittedly, it's been a quiet week for biz dev in pharma land. The big news has been clinical. On the positive side, the diabetes triumvirate of Amylin, Alkermes, & Lilly published studies on October 31, reviewed here , showing that long-acting Byetta has staying power. And then there's the therapeutic effect of good vibrations. On the negative side, GPC's stock price cratered on the news that accelerated approvals aren't really under threat, it's just that satraplatin doesn't work as advertised. Bad news from Lilly and Daiichi too, who announced this week that they are suspending two prasugrel trials due to concerns about side-effects.

And a new survey posted this week--this time from IMS--gives pharma execs yet another reason to worry: US pharmaceutical sales for 2008 are projected to increase at their slowest rate since 1963 as cheaper generic drugs drive down prices and docs write fewer scripts for medicines tied to harmful side-effects. (At least sales are increasing, right?)

But in case you missed them, here's the deal-flow round-up:

  • Lilly inked a deal with India-based Glenmark Pharmaceuticals to acquire rights to a portfolio of TRPV1 antagonist molecules, including a Phase II compound, GRC 6211, for osteoarthritic pain. Terms of the deal: Lilly pays Glenmark $45 million up-front and up to an additional $215 million in milestones. The deal's a bit surprising--according to Windhover's Strategic Transactions Database, the pharma has signed only 12 deals in the pain space since 1994 and three of those transactions were out-licenses, including a $211 million deal to NeoSan for US rights to Darvon and Darvocet N.

  • King Pharmaceuticals signed a deal with Acura Pharmaceuticals worth $30 million up-front and up to $28 million (per product) in milestones to develop and commercialize 4 of Acura's immediate release opioid analgesics. This isn't King's first foray into pain of course. Nearly two years ago, the company inked a much bigger deal with Pain Therapeutics for that company's Phase II, abuse-resistant, long-acting oxycodone product Remoxy. (See this March 2006 IN VIVO story for more.) Perhaps this week's deal is a signal that King is returning to a specialty focus centered on neuroscience and hospital/ acute care--the "King of pain," perhaps? That may be necessary for the company's survival. Last week King announced it was slashing 20% of its work force after losing patent protection on its heart failure remedy Altace.
  • Another spec pharma deal: NycoMed announced it was purchasing Bradley Pharmaceuticals for $346 million. The reason: "This brings together the strengths of both companies with the objective of creating a leading specialty pharmaceutical player in dermatology," said Paul McGarty, Chief Executive Officer of Nycomed US, in the company's press release. European spec pharma companies have been knocking on the door to the US via acquisitions--witness also the Meda AB acquisition of Medpointe earlier this year (at nearly $800 mm). We won't be surprised to see more of these.
  • Finally, on November 1, Merck inked a deal with Dynavax worth up to $136 million for rights to that biotech's Phase III Hep B therapy, Heplisav, which promises an easier dosing schedule and potentially better efficacy in weakened immune systems than the drug Recombivax HB Merck already markets. Heplisav combines a segment of the hepatitis B virus and a DNA sequence that activates a toll-like receptor, triggering an early immune response. While the terms of the agreement weren't overwhelming, it's signing suggests the following: 1) There is still faith in the Toll-like receptor field despite Coley Pharmaceutical's high profile failure last January; 2) Pharmas continue to show interest in vaccines, thanks in part to new adjuvants that allow the development of more potent medicines that also come with higher price tags. (See this September 2006 story by our RPM brethren for more.)

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